Press Release: Attewell and Lavin Receive 2009 Outstanding Book Award from the American Educational Research Association

Sociologists Paul Attewell and David Lavin of the Graduate Center, City University of New York, have received the Outstanding Book Award for 2009 from the American Educational Research Association for their book Passing the Torch: Does Higher Education for the Disadvantaged Pay Off Across the Generations? (published by the Russell Sage Foundation).  This is the second major award that Attewell and Lavin have received for their landmark study showing the long-term benefits of providing disadvantaged women with access to higher education -- they were also co-recipients of the prestigious Grawmeyer Award for 2008 in the category of Education.

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) presented the Outstanding Book Award to Attewell and Lavin at its 90th Annual Meeting on April 15 in San Diego.  AERA is the national interdisciplinary research association for approximately 25,000 scholars who undertake research in education. Founded in 1916, AERA aims to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.

Professors Attewell and Lavin’s study revealed that the benefits of providing disadvantaged students, particularly women, with wider access to higher education are startling when measured over the course of a lifetime, rather than just the traditional span of college attendance.  The authors found that over a 30-year period, surveyed women admitted to City University of New York in the early 1970s ultimately achieved a 70% college graduation rate, earned an annual average of $7,525 more than they otherwise would have, and passed the benefits of their educational experience on to their children. The patterns were similar to a 20-year longitudinal study of students nationwide, to which the City University data were compared.
Further information on the study can be found at:

Paul Attewell, a professor of sociology and urban education at the Graduate Center, has spent his career addressing public policy dilemmas in education.  Besides his work on Passing the Torch, he has researched the policy of requiring more advanced coursework from high school students and whether remedial education works for college students.  His current research projects include a qualitative evaluation of inner city public school students who are being paid incentives to do well on standardized tests, and a separate project that looks at college graduation, stopping out, and dropping out among working and commuter undergraduates.  Attewell earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of California-San Diego in 1978.  Before joining the Graduate Center faculty, he taught at the University of California-Santa Cruz; the State University of New York, Stony Brook; and Stern Graduate School of Business at New York University.

David Lavin, a sociology professor at the Graduate Center and Lehman College, has for many years examined the impact of higher education on disadvantaged families.  Since 1971, he has completed fourteen research grants and projects.  He has also co-written three books and a half-dozen articles.  Lavin’s research has been funded by the Spencer, Ford, Mellon, and Exxon Education foundations.  He earned his doctorate in sociology from New York University in 1960.  Lavin began his career as a research fellow in social relations at Harvard University from 1960 to 1962. From 1962 to 1970, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania. In the year before coming to City University of New York, he was a visiting associate professor of sociology at Columbia University.

The Graduate Center is devoted primarily to doctoral studies and awards most of the City University of New York’s Ph.D.s.  An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia.  Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at

Submitted on: APR 1, 2009

Category: Press Room | Sociology